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How do I apply for a divorce by myself?

If you're married and want to legally end your marriage, you must apply for a divorce order from the court.

If your partner doesn't want to get a divorce, you can apply for one yourself. If your partner doesn't respond, this is sometimes called an "Uncontested Divorce". If your partner responds and disagrees with what you're asking for, this is sometimes called a "Contested Divorce".

If you both agree to get a divorce, you can apply together by making a joint application.

To get a divorce in Ontario, you must meet certain conditions. For example, you and your partner must have had a marriage ceremony and you must show that your marriage has ended. If you don't meet them, the court may not approve your divorce application.

Religious divorce

A religious divorce doesn't legally end a marriage. But some religions require a religious divorce if you want to remarry within that religion.

The courts do not grant a religious divorce. You have to get that through your place of worship or religious organization. For example, a Jewish religious divorce is called a get.

Matrimonial home

If you separate, each married partner has an equal right to stay in the matrimonial home and to claim a share in the value of the home. It doesn't matter who owns the home. You don't give up these rights if you decide to move out.

If you get divorced and you were not on title to the matrimonial home, you're no longer considered a married partner with an equal right to stay in the matrimonial home. But, this doesn't affect your right to claim a share in the value of the home.

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1. Decide whether to apply only for a divorce or add other issues

Before you apply to the court for a divorce, you have to decide whether to ask the court for:

  • a divorce only, or
  • a divorce and other things like custody, access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property.

You don't have to go to court and get a court order to deal with these other issues like custody, access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property. You can deal with your family law issues by making a separation agreement or by getting help from a family law professional like a mediator.

But some people choose to ask the court to deal with their family law issues when they apply for a divorce. This might be because:

  • You want a court order you can enforce.
  • You don't think you can make an agreement with your partner, with or without the help of a lawyer or family law professional.
  • There is a history of partner abuse, mental illness, or drug abuse.

There is no time limit to get a divorce. But there are time limits for other claims. For example, you have six years from the date you separate or two years from the date of your divorce to make a claim to divide property.

2. Fill out the right form

In Ontario, there are 2 Family Law Forms that you can use to ask the court for a divorce. The one you use depends on whether you're applying for a divorce only, or for a divorce and other claims, like custody, access, child support, spousal support, or dividing property.

You can get both forms from the courthouse or online. They are available in French and English.

Because you're the person asking the court for a divorce, you're called the applicant. Your partner is called the respondent because they're responding to your claim.

Form 8: Application (General)

Use Form 8: Application (General) if you want to ask the court for a divorce and other claims.

You may have to fill out more forms if you’re asking for other things. For example:

Form 8A: Application (Divorce)

Use Form 8A: Application (Divorce) if you want to ask the court for a divorce only.

This form has 2 options:

  1. Simple (divorce only)
  2. Joint

Because you're applying for one by yourself, you check off the "Simple (divorce only)" box.

The only other claim you can make on this form is to ask for costs. This means asking the court to order your partner to pay your costs for asking for the divorce.

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3. Take your application to court

Take 3 copies of your Form 8: Application (General) or Form 8A: Application (Divorce) and any other court forms to the courthouse. Only a Superior Court of Justice or a Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice can make a divorce order.

You have to go to one of those courts in the municipality where:

  • you've been living for at least a year,
  • your partner's been living for at least a year, or
  • your children live, if you're asking for child support, custody, or access.

The court clerk issues your application. This means they:

  • give your case a court file number and write the number in the box on the top right corner of the form
  • sign, date, and place a court seal on the forms
  • give you a Registration of Divorce Proceedings form

You must fill out the Registration of Divorce Proceedings form. The court sends it to the Department of Justice. The department checks a database to make sure that no other divorce applications have been made for you and your partner in Canada. If there are no other applications, they send a clearance certificate to the court. The court has to get this certificate before it gives you a divorce.

You also need to start a:

  • Continuing Record: This is a court file that has every document you and your partner want the court to look at.
  • Table of contents: This is a document that lists every document in the Continuing Record.

You have to give the court 2 stamped envelopes, one addressed to you and one addressed to your partner, if you want your order mailed to you. Or, you can pick up your order from the court.

Court fees

You must pay $167 when you file your application. Later you pay $280 when the court reviews your divorce application.

Court fees can be paid by cash, cheque, or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance. If you can't afford to pay the court fees, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. This means you don't have to pay most court fees.

4. Give your partner a copy of your application

You need to serve your Form 8: Application (General) or Form 8A: Application (Divorce) on your partner. Serving means giving them:

  • a copy of the Application that was issued by the court, and
  • a blank copy of a Form 10: Answer

You must serve your partner within six months of getting your Application issued. If you don't, the court may close your file.

The first time you serve your partner it has to be by special service. This means you can't give your partner your documents directly. There is a guide on how to serve documents. You can ask a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server to do it for you.

Whoever serves your partner must fill out a Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This tells the court when, where, and how the documents were given to your partner. It proves that your partner got a copy of your documents and knows that they have to respond to them. It must be filed with the court. There is a guide on how to file documents.

Your partner has 30 days (or 60 days if they live outside of Canada or the United States) to respond.

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5. Get your Divorce Order

What happens next depends on whether or not your partner responds to your application.

In general, if you're applying for only a divorce, the process takes about 4 to 6 months. If you're applying for a divorce and other claims, it's hard to say how long it takes to get your order.

Partner doesn't respond

If your partner doesn't respond within 30 days, you have to file with the court:

  • Form 36: Affidavit for Divorce, where you include information about you and your partner, your children, and any arrangements made after separating about custody, support, and dividing property. This form must be sworn or affirmed. This means you promise that the information in the document is true. You can be charged for committing a crime if you do not tell the truth when you swear or affirm your form.
  • Form 25A: Divorce Order, where you write the orders you want the court to make.
  • Original marriage certificate.

If you can't get a copy of your marriage certificate, you need to explain why you couldn't get it in your Form 36: Affidavit for Divorce.

A judge reviews your documents to make sure everything is complete and you meet the conditions to get a divorce. Steps 1-4 in Do I have to get a divorce? explains what these conditions are. 

This is sometimes called an "Uncontested Divorce".

Usually, you don't have to go to court or meet with a judge. But, if the judge has questions for you, the court clerk contacts you with a court date or gives you a copy of the judge's endorsement that tells you what you have to do.

If the judge doesn't have any questions, you get a divorce order. The court clerk can mail you a certified copy of the signed order in the stamped envelopes you gave or call you to pick it up.

The divorce order has a date when it takes effect. This is usually 31 days after the date of the divorce order. This is the date when you will be legally divorced.

Partner responds

If your partner responds, they fill out Form 10: Answer and serve you. This means they give you a copy of their Form 10: Answer and any other documents they need to file. For example:

If your partner doesn't agree with your claim for a divorce, the process becomes more complicated. Your partner might also add new claims of their own or ask for things like support or access. This is sometimes called an "Contested Divorce".

Sometimes, partners can agree to get a divorce before they resolve their other issues. This is called "severing" the divorce from the other issues. But, the court might not give you a divorce if there is no child support or other support arrangements made for the children.

This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case. Going to court can be a complicated process and it can take a lot of time. It can be stressful and expensive, but it is sometimes necessary to decide your issues.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you with the court process. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers will provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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September, 2015

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